Friday, August 31, 2012

The Garmin “Premium” Heart Rate Monitor and Super-False Heart Rate Readings.

                                                   The Edge 500 Bundle.  Images courtesy Garmin

Editors Note:  This is not a review of the Garmin Edge 500, just some bitching about the super-erroneous heart rate function.  If anyone has a fix, please email or leave a comment.

I have using the Garmin Edge 500 since November 2011, and I have been very happy with the unit and its associated sensors – For the most part.  The unit has a lot of positives, and a few quirks that one has to be prepared to live with (It is, in short, a lot like owning an Italian motorcycle in these respects – Ask me, I know).  Three initial quirks I had discovered were inaccurate speed, altitude and temperature readings.

However, quirks aside, the unit worked fine until about two months ago when I noticed Hear Rate (HR) numbers way above and below my targets.  See, I have my “Hill Screen,” whereby I have HR, cadence, grade and elevation featured, and I have come to train by the HR and cadence numbers.  Well, I began to see HR lows of 60 Beats Per Minute (BPM), to highs of 260, no matter the terrain or physical exertion level.  With these kinds of numbers I immediately called my doctor so see if I should be dead.

So, I turned to the net, and from on-line searches, it appears I am not the only user with HR monitor issues.  There were a lot of people with the same problem, a lot of suggestions, a lot of guesses, and a lot of unhappiness with something we all paid good money for.  Here is what I have tried.
                                                 The strap and HR sensor

The Sensor - Four micro-screws on back access the battery compartment.  It takes a CR2032 battery.

To date, I have replaced the battery in the chest strap, tried water, saliva, and soon, I will be trying some kind of conductivity gel on the contacts.  I am not very happy with this, and from the on-line forums, Garmin knows they have an issue.  If you pay for something, you should receive it.  If none of the ‘Fixes” work, I will be contacting the manufacturer.

Look at it another way – You buy a fully loaded car, and the air conditioning is horribly unreliable.  Should we just have to deal with it?

Friday, August 24, 2012

USADA - How Pro Cycling Was Made to Look Worse Than Pro Wrestling In One, Easy Step.

What can you say about the revelation Lace Armstrong will not fight the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) charges he cheated his entire professional career, via Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s)?  The issue of “Did he, or didn’t he” is no longer of any importance, however, the fallout from here on will be massive.  And, all it took was one man with a goal, an obsession, actually – Travis T. Tygart. 

And, he did it with no apparent, solid facts.  Innuendo was enough to kill Pro Cycling as we know it. 

If the focal point of Lance’s downfall were unsubstantiated “Eye-Witness” reports and back room mutterings, then the implications of legal precedent go far beyond the bounds of cranks, cassette’s and carbon tubulars.  Pick a sport.  Pick a star.  All is now open to boundless attacks and an eerie shadow of doubt.  “We want blood!” 

Any activity where there are winners and losers is now open to interpretations based purely on the “Facts” of the losers.  Some claim the noose was tightening and Armstrong folded under the ever increasing pressure.  Quite logically, when you are absolved of charge, after charge, after charge, yet organizations with no limits on litigation, questionable jurisdiction, no care for Due Process, and never-ending public attacks until a forced “Confession” is extracted, well, what would any one of us do?

This also opens up some facts about the current world we live in.  In previous generations, if you got beat, you got beat.  One accepted the win as a win and a loss as a loss.  There were no hurts feelings or the need for support groups, therapy, or hugs to soothe the exploited also-rans.  “The winner must have cheated!  They beat the system, somehow!  My feelings are hurt!  Everyone deserves a trophy, or I will cry all the way to the authorities.”

Where the proverbial chips fall from here is anyone’s guess.  Lance was THE icon of the sport, and now he has been tarnished (as well as his foundation and sponsors).  One thing is for sure – The financial ramifications to cycling from dwindling sponsorship support will be HUGE! 

Yes, nothing good will come from the public execution of Lance Armstrong.  The damage to cycling, the organizers, the sponsors, the manufacturers, and the fans is going to be almost impossible to repair.

I wonder if Tygart really, truly gives a damn about cycling?  Torquemada would be proud.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bicycle Racing – A Sad, Current State Of Affairs.

Being we live in a world of instant partisanship let me preface this article with the disclaimer of having absolutely no dog in this fight.  More than ever, bicycle racing is now viewed on the same level as championship wrestling – All make believe.  Why did I write that?  More importantly, how did the sport get here? 

When did honesty die a quiet, lonely death?

I have been a casual observer at best of bicycle racing for most of my life.  However, it was not until the summer of 2010 that I began to take serious note of the goings-on within the Pro Peletons of the world.  And what I saw was not all kosher. 

With the aftermath of doping allegations from the 2012 Tour de France and the proverbial “Other Shoe” which fell almost daily from the London Summer Olympics, the existing divide has only grown larger.   

Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) in all levels of sports are alive and well.  From the Pro’s down to the Amateur ranks, they are everywhere.  So bad is the penetration of PED’s, that even when someone is truly clean, no one believes them.  Heck, a year ago I was at a local bike shop listening to some local racers proudly proclaim, “If I had to take EPO (Erythropoietin) to keep up, I would do it.”  Wow, and these are the local guys!

When I ran track in high school the subject de jour were steroids.  There were rumors of some schools pushing it on the athletes to get ahead.  I paid it no attention back then.  Boy, I should have. 

We have become a society of skeptics and finger-pointers, and investigations (a loose term, at best) like “Operation Puerto” only add to the stigma which is cycling.  Throw in the suspension of Alberto Contador for a positive Clenbuterol test, the on-going Lance Armstrong “Well, he must of taken something!” affair, to Frank Schleck's recent Tour de France positive test for a diuretic, and the ramifications of the sport’s image can clearly be seen.  Heck, there are even cases of Cat 3 and 4 local racers being busted for EPO!   

The current “Busted” climate is not only scoring a positive on a pee test, but apparently every little nuance and innuendo is enough to trash a reputation and a career.  Maybe rightfully so, but must we be so rabid as to eat our own at a moments notice?  Some of it is pretty cut and dry.  Some of it is just too foolish to watch.  

A case in point – Lance Armstrong.  Must this circus go on any longer?  I mean come on, either the man is guilty or he is not.  A check of any story on Lance has the ever present “He doped,” “No he didn’t dope” crowd in the comment section of any on-line forum or printed media.  The longer this goes on the more the sport looks foolishly insane. 

The main point of focus here should be where will it all end?  Then again, will it ever end?

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has not been asleep at the proverbial switch, and they are well aware of the situation and public’s perception of cycling.  It is, however, just like any other “operation” – The status quo will not only be tolerated, but it will be encouraged as long as the positions of power in the organizational structure remain and the money comes into the sport.  This is true of many governing bodies, be it Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL), NASCAR (the France family can write the book on this), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), you name it.

The sport cannot look at itself objectively anymore, not that it really ever did.  When cheating becomes the status quo, in any sport, do not think for a second one is fooling all of the fans while organizations are busy fooling themselves. 

The driving ethos becomes money not the spirit of competition.  Once this happens, it is now a show and no longer a sport (again, see NASCAR).

Sadder still, cheating is all around us, whether it is your kids’ soccer match, to cutting in a line at the theater, to telling a lie, to fudging on a resume.  Cheating has been, is now, and as long as we tolerate it, will be with us well into the future.  If we do no put a stop to it, expect the future to bring a whole lot of asterisks’ next to individuals’ names, along with the shattered dreams of those whom gave it an honest go.

Reality becomes fantasy, and fantasy become reality.  Who really earned it, and who was only putting on a show? 

Maybe Shakespeare was right – The World is indeed a stage.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

SRAM Red-Black Edition Brakeset Review

                                                                      Image courtesy SRAM

“Come On Dave, Gimme a break! OK, one break, comin’ up!”

My sincerest apologies to Mr. David Lee Roth, but I just could not resist that line from the Van Halen song “Unchained” when getting into a story about “brakes.” See, one day I was hanging around the palatial Tweaked Sports lounge (again!), when I got tossed a familiar looking red box. And no, not just any red box, but a SRAM Red box. “Test ‘em out, they’re yours,” chimed Patrick (one half of the dynamic duo, the other being Brian). “Wow,” I proclaimed, “All for me?” The two of them basically told me to put them on, test ‘em out, and give them some feedback. Heck, I can do that. And I did. Here is what I thought.

Upon arriving home I opened the box to spy the coolest looking set of sexy brakes. Based on SRAM's race-proven, skeletonized, Dual-Pivot design, these brakes have cold-forged aluminum arms, alloy pivot bolts, plus centering and spring tension adjustments for maximum effectiveness with minimum weight.

Highlights are:

• Dual-Pivot design increases braking power and enhances progressive feel. Fully adjustable with the  centering and spring tension screws.
• Technology: Skeletonized Dual-Pivot design with convex washers.
• Material: Cold-forged arms, titanium mounting and pivot bolts.
• Pad / Holder: SwissStop Green Compound with adjustable cartridge holder.
• QR: Indexed.
• Weight: 265 grams.
• Carbon-specific set, complete with SwissStop yellow pads, also available.

OK, so how did they work?

The calipers mounted up as straight-forward as any other brake set, however, be mindful of lubricating the mounting bolts if you ever want to the get the brakes off again. I used Park Tools anti-seize compound, torqued everything to spec, secured the cable, and took off to really put them to the test.

Now, the stock brakes on my trusty Trek 2.3 roadie were Shimano BR5600’s, which I upgraded to Dura-Ace pads. They originally worked well with the stock 105 pads, a whole lot better with the Dura-Ace pad upgrade, and have performed admirably when needed, even down Glendora Mountain Road.

I had been riding SRAM S40 wheels as of late, however, for this test, I have been using Mavic Ksyrium SL’s. Both sets of wheels are aluminum brake tracked clinchers, and the differences in my seat-of-the-pants tests have been amazing. Not only do the SRAM brakes look awesome, and the weight savings extremely welcome (BR5600’s weigh 376 grams, 111 grams more!), but the initial bite on the rims, plus the increased modulation, without squealing, or massive performance killing heat build-up, sold me completely. Yes, they are that good, and front and rear lock-ups are very attainable, so attention from your hands is a must.

Would I recommend them to a friend? You bet I would. Bicycles were meant to have component upgrades from time-to-time, and grabbing yourself a set of SRAM Red brakes will give you increased confidence and safety, better performance, and look great, as well.

Retail is $345.99, and the new 2012’s go for $351.00 USD. Now, that is SRAM’s suggested retail, however, the good folks at Tweaked Sports can get ‘em to you for a whole lot less.

Tweaked Sports
1755 S. Valley Center Ave. Suite 117
Glendora, CA 91740
Store Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, M-F
Tel: 626-827-8733
Fax: 909-305-9798


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Weekend Affair With The Giant Defy Advanced 1

At first it felt like I was cheating on my trusty 2010 Trek2.3, coffee shop-seeking, aluminum roadie.  The folks at Coates Cyclery in scenic Pomona, California were kind enough to throw me a 2012 Giant Defy Advanced 1 for three days of road surfing.  Three days on carbon.  Three days away from my Trek aluminum. 

So, what did I learn? 

Let’s start with the good.  Beefy, stout, thick, firm, pick your description, as the carbon frame was an amazing piece of work.  Every tube on the bike was huge compared to my daily rider.  I am used to riding aluminum until I am numb, so my rides over many of the same jumps and chasms (you know them as city streets) were like the proverbial night & day.  What used to rattle my teeth loose was nothing more than an extremely minor hum on the Giant.  Even launches from stops, climbing, and standing out of the saddle produced nothing but smooth, forward motion.  The bottom bracket area is beefy and stout, and this is something I wish alloy frames had.  The Giant’s 16 pound weight over my 18 pound Trek (20 pounds when I bought it) also had a lot to do with the ride sensation, I am certain.

And now for the So-So.  After three days of mashing the SRAM Force gruppo (34-50 Compact, PG-1070 11X28 cassette), I was reminded of eating my veggies as a child – It was love or hate.  What began as hate, turned to a kind of tolerance, to a “Hey, this ain’t so bad,” scenario.  Upshifts were firm and positive, while downshifts not so much.  Yes, you can indeed drop multiple gears at a time, however, this mild-mannered rider has yet to find a reason to do so.  Swapping chain rings took way too much attention and effort, too.  In fairness, the front and rear derailleurs were not set up correctly, and after I fiddled with them a bit, the shifting became much better.  The Defy also follows the trend towards internal cable routing, however, this was not a major concern for me, save for aesthetics. 

The wheels (P-SL0 clinchers, 1595 grams), tires (P-SL1’s) and tubes were all Giant badged products, and all very light and lively, but durability was definitely suspect.  The tires and tubes are extremely light.  Maybe too light.  I punctured twice.  Sometimes light weight is achieved with sacrifices in durability. 

The competent bars and stem were also proprietary Giant offerings, and the Fizik Arione was nice, but I was expecting more from a saddle used by so many professional peletons the world over.  I just could not get comfortable on it.  In fairness, I currently ride a 2011 Ritchey Carbon Streem saddle, and it took me a good six months to get comfortable on that saddle.

And as for the bad?  Nothing really.  I could point out the SRAM Force group, however, due to setup issues, I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt.  The internal cable routing through the head tube did hinder the turning circle a bit, which I made a mental note of while riding.  So, overall, the Giant did not have any real negatives.

In conclusion, this was one impressive bicycle, but was it enough to get me to convert to a carbon frame?  Well, yes, and no.  Over the battlefield grade asphalt which is Greater Los Angeles, yes, it sure was a performer there.  But, my current bike fits me like a favorite pair of jeans, and that is a hard thing to give up .  The Defy did all things well, just not one thing exceptionally well.  This is one bike you could indeed ride off the showroom floor without changing a thing.  My Trek 2.3 needed a host of upgrades to get it where I wanted, however, it was not designed for the same market as the Defy.  While the Giant is smooth, the Trek bucks and bites. 

But then again, I like a bike with a bit of attitude. 

List price for my loaner was $3700.00 in basic black and white.  You can also get one with Shimano Ultegra Di2 for $4500.00 in a killer looking silver, orange and black, if you like.

Coates Cyclery
760 East Foorhill Boulevard
Pomona, CA 91767
Phone: 909-624-0612
Fax: 909-624-9311
M 12-5, T- F 10-6:30, SAT 9-5:30, SUN 12-5

Giant Bicycles:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Note About Texting And Driving.

As if there are not enough hazards as it is while riding our bikes, we now have modern technology to thank for the latest contributor to bodily harm – Texting while driving.

Just in the past month alone I have almost been side-swiped three times by a vehicle while the driver was texting.  In all cases the driver allowed the vehicle to swerve off course to the right, and in one instance, almost jump the curb and hit a road sign after nearly taking my left elbow off.  For the record, I already wear very bright red riding kits, and I stay as far to the right as is safe.

In an effort to be even more conspicuous as possible (which still does not seem to be working), I have resorted to a flashing red tail light even in the day time in an attempt to give myself as much of an edge as possible.

I fear that it is not an "If," but a "When" situation for road cyclists against a vehicular texter.  The practice is mucho illegal here in California, however, just by an unscientific visual survey of passing vehicles, the practice is big-time out of control.

The worst part of this problem is you will not know the car is going to hit from behind until it actually does.

Be aware out there.  The drivers certainly are not.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Lance Armstrong Saga - Did He Or Didn't He?

Editor's note: If there is one thing this blog will not do is shy away from is jumping into the deep end.  Thus, I present to you an on-going issue which threatens to rip cycling to pieces.  One one side are those who seek the truth, and by extension, what is best for cycling.  On the other side are people so bent on a single-person vendetta, that the potential lethal blow to the sport is of no consequence to them.

I have no dog in this fight.  However, if there is evidence of systemic doping, then get on with it.  If there is no evidence, then let it go.  Innuendo is not enough to convict in the U.S.A.  Or, is it?

                                                  Graham Watson Photo

War of words escalates between UCI, USADA over inquiry into Lance Armstrong, U.S.Postal.  VeloNews, 08-05-2012

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (VN) — The war of words between the UCI and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency escalated over the weekend, with the international governing body informing USADA on Saturday that it was denying the agency “any authority to act or proceed” on behalf of the UCI and/or USA Cycling.

On Friday, The New York Daily News reported that the UCI had asked USADA in mid-July to hand over all documents related to the agency’s investigation of Lance Armstrong and others over what USADA CEO Travis Tygart has called a “doping conspiracy” at the seven-time Tour de France winner’s U.S. Postal Service team.

USADA general counsel Bill Bock replied on July 26 that his agency had jurisdiction in the matter and indeed was established “as an independent anti-doping organization not subject to the control of any sports organization precisely for situations such as this where a sports organization with manifest conflicts of interest is attempting to impose its will on the results management process.”

Both letters were attached to a brief that USADA filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas.

On Saturday, the website published a letter dated August 3 in which UCI president Pat McQuaid asserted that his organization had jurisdiction in the Armstrong case, that USADA was withholding information from the UCI and those under investigation, and that the international governing body had no conflicts of interest in the matter.

“We contest and reject these allegations, which we feel denote a political intention against cycling and the UCI,” wrote McQuaid, adding, “Anyhow, whether there is a conflict of interests is not a matter for USADA to decide.”

Regardless of the issues of jurisdiction and conflict of interests, McQuaid continued, “USADA has disqualified itself as a neutral body by proffering pages of accusations against the UCI which denotes a bias against cycling, by ignoring UCI’s efforts in the fight against doping, by judging upon press articles, by refusing to submit the evidence its accusations are allegedly based upon, by claiming results management authority without giving evidence of such claim, by calling for witness statements under unknown but apparently unprecedented conditions which seem also contrary to the Code, by claiming to ban a person for life without elementary due process, (and) by invoking a violation of conspiracy that is not provided for in the rules.”

McQuaid closed by suggesting that USADA and UCI put the question of jurisdiction to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport and forbidding USADA “to act or proceed on the basis of ADR (anti-doping regulations) or any other rule of the UCI or otherwise on behalf of UCI and/or USA Cycling.”

It was not clear whether McQuaid’s edict referred solely to the Armstrong inquiry or to USADA’s overall mission. E-mails to USADA and USA Cycling seeking response and clarification have yet to be returned.

Also on Saturday, the UCI communications service issued a press release lambasting USADA as laying claim to “an authority that it does not have” and employing procedures “that violate basic principles of due process.”

“The absence of any evidence that has been made available to the respondents and to the UCI, the fact that USADA has no results management jurisdiction in this case, the fact that USADA refuses to have its file assessed by an independent results management authority and the fact that USADA continues to claim in these circumstances publicly that a doping conspiracy has taken place indeed brings UCI to the conclusion that USADA has no respect for the rules and for the principles of due process,” the release continued.

“The UCI wants that the case is judged according to the rules, upon facts established on the basis of sound evidence and by a neutral instance, including in the stadium of results management. The UCI wants that justice is done. Justice cannot be done by violating rules on jurisdiction, with files that have been kept secret so far and results management proceedings that are not fair.”

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has remained largely silent throughout this back and forth, though last month, following the lifetime bans issued against three Armstrong associates, the agency issued a statement confirming its unity with USADA, while explaining that any international federation — in this case, the UCI — has the right to appeal the sanctions.

At the time WADA declined to comment on specifics of the case until “the time for exercising such rights has passed.”

VeloNews, 08-05-2012